Practicing New Historicism

By Catherine Gallagher; Stephen J. Greenblatt; Stephen J. Greenblatt (Contribution by)
(University of Chicago Press, Hardcover, 9780226279343, 260pp.)

Publication Date: June 2000

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Description
For almost twenty years, new historicism has been a highly controversial and influential force in literary and cultural studies. In "Practicing the New Historicism, " two of its most distinguished practitioners reflect on its surprisingly disparate sources and far-reaching effects.
In lucid and jargon-free prose, Catherine Gallagher and Stephen Greenblatt focus on five central aspects of new historicism: recurrent use of anecdotes, preoccupation with the nature of representations, fascination with the history of the body, sharp focus on neglected details, and skeptical analysis of ideology. Arguing that new historicism has always been more a passionately engaged practice of questioning and analysis than an abstract theory, Gallagher and Greenblatt demonstrate this practice in a series of characteristically dazzling readings of works ranging from paintings by Joos van Gent and Paolo Uccello to "Hamlet" and "Great Expectations."
By juxtaposing analyses of Renaissance and nineteenth-century topics, the authors uncover a number of unexpected contrasts and connections between the two periods. Are aspects of the dispute over the Roman Catholic doctrine of the Eucharist detectable in British political economists' hostility to the potato? How does Pip's isolation in "Great Expectations" shed light on Hamlet's doubt?
Offering not only an insider's view of new historicism, but also a lively dialogue between a Renaissance scholar and a Victorianist, "Practicing the New Historicism" is an illuminating and unpredictable performance by two of America's most respected literary scholars.
"Gallagher and Greenblatt offer a brilliant introduction to new historicism. In their hands, difficult ideas become coherent and accessible." "Choice"
"A tour de force of new literary criticism. . . . Gallagher and Greenblatt's virtuoso readings of paintings, potatoes (yes, spuds), religious ritual, and novels all 'texts' as well as essays on criticism and the significance of anecdotes, are likely to take their place as model examples of the qualities of the new critical school that they lead. . . . A zesty work for those already initiated into the incestuous world of contemporary literary criticism-and for those who might like to see what all the fuss is about." "Kirkus Reviews," starred review.



About the Author
Catherine Gallagher is Professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley. She is the author of "The Industrial Reformation of English Fiction: Social Discourse and Narrative Form, 1832-67" (1985).

Stephen Greenblatt (Ph.D. Yale) is Cogan University Professor of the Humanities at Harvard University. Also General Editor of "The Norton Shakespeare", he is the author of eleven books, including "The Swerve: How the World Became Modern; Shakespeare's Freedom"; "Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare"; "Hamlet in Purgatory"; "Practicing New Historicism"; "Marvelous Possessions: The Wonder of the New World"; and "Learning to Curse: Essays in Early Modern Culture". He has edited seven collections of criticism, including "Cultural Mobility: A Manifesto", and is a founding coeditor of the journal "Representations". His honors include the MLA's James Russell Lowell Prize for "Shakespearean Negotiations: The Circulation of Social Energy in Renaissance England", the Distinguished Humanist Award from the Mellon Foundation, the Wilbur Cross Medal from the Yale University Graduate School, the William Shakespeare Award for Classical Theatre, the Erasmus Institute Prize, two Guggenheim Fellowships, and the Distinguished Teaching Award from the University of California, Berkeley. He was president of the Modern Language Association of America and is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Stephen Greenblatt (Ph.D. Yale) is Cogan University Professor of the Humanities at Harvard University. Also General Editor of "The Norton Shakespeare", he is the author of eleven books, including "The Swerve: How the World Became Modern; Shakespeare's Freedom"; "Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare"; "Hamlet in Purgatory"; "Practicing New Historicism"; "Marvelous Possessions: The Wonder of the New World"; and "Learning to Curse: Essays in Early Modern Culture". He has edited seven collections of criticism, including "Cultural Mobility: A Manifesto", and is a founding coeditor of the journal "Representations". His honors include the MLA's James Russell Lowell Prize for "Shakespearean Negotiations: The Circulation of Social Energy in Renaissance England", the Distinguished Humanist Award from the Mellon Foundation, the Wilbur Cross Medal from the Yale University Graduate School, the William Shakespeare Award for Classical Theatre, the Erasmus Institute Prize, two Guggenheim Fellowships, and the Distinguished Teaching Award from the University of California, Berkeley. He was president of the Modern Language Association of America and is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
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